CFN Fearless Predictions - USM-Neb, & More
Posted Aug 29, 2012

Week 1 Big Ten CFN Fearless Predictions - Southern Miss at Nebraska, & More

2012 Fearless Predictions 

Week 1 - Big Ten, Part 3

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- Boise State at Michigan State
- Miami Univ. at Ohio State, & More
- Ohio at Penn State, & More
- Southern Miss at Nebraska, & More
- Northern Iowa at Wisconsin, & More
- Michigan vs. Alabama

Southern Miss (0-0) at Nebraska (0-0) Sept. 1, 3:30

Here's The Deal: Nebraska will begin the season with the knowledge that it hasn't won a conference title since 1999, too long for a program of this stature. Having completed the transition to the Big Ten with mixed reviews, the Huskers are hopeful that they're better positioned to compete in the Legends Division and beyond. This is Year 5 for head coach Bo Pelini, who has yet to win fewer than nine games in a season … or completely dispel the notion that his program is caught in neutral. It'll also be a pivotal campaign for junior QB Taylor Martinez, the throwback to the options days in Lincoln who spent much of the offseason attempting to clean up his throwing motion. A year after winning a school-best 12 games, Southern Miss will look to climb back up the mountain without head coach Larry Fedora or QB Austin Davis. Former South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is the new man in charge, but is taking his time to name Davis' successor. Still in the mix is rookie Anthony Alford, the most heralded recruit to choose Hattiesburg in years.

Why Southern Miss Might Win: Facing uncertainty behind center, the Golden Eagles will be content to run right at a Nebraska front seven looking to replace a few of last season's key parts. Southern Miss has the kind of depth in the backfield that'll maintain fresh legs, especially during the hottest month of the season. Desmond Johnson, Kendrick Hardy and Jeremy Hester have all gotten meaningful carries as members of the program. Plus, they'll be operating behind a tough, Jason Weaver-led line that returns four starters. Never a slouch on defense, bandit Jamie Collins and defensive backs Deron Wilson and Jacorius Cotton will make Martinez pay if he hasn't taken the promised step forward as a complete player.

Why Nebraska Might Win: Southern Miss will have a tougher than normal time stopping the run in 2012, a by-product of some key losses in the front seven. The Huskers should be able to capitalize with the help of Martinez and backfield mate Rex Burkhead, one of the nation's top backs. Nebraska will lean heavily on the ground game, getting daylight from a blue-collar O-line that boasts G Spencer Long as its most skilled blocker. Sure, the Eagles should have some success running the ball, but the lack of a proven threat in the passing game will allow the Huskers to stack the box with the likes of LB Will Compton and S Daimion Stafford. A packed house at Memorial Stadium is no place for a quarterback to make his starting debut.

What To Watch Out For: If Martinez is going to showcase his improved arm, he'll do so with lots of help from top receiver Kenny Bell. And if Bell is going to build on his impressive debut in Lincoln, he'll have to shake Southern Miss CB Deron Wilson. Wilson is one of Conference USA's top pass defenders, the kind of ball-hawk who is already drawing interest from NFL scouts. When Bell is being blanketed, Martinez might want to consider Kyler Reed, the athletic tight end itching to rebound from an injury-plagued junior year.

What Will Happen: Southern Miss will face a tough transition in Johnson's first year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. A one-note attack isn't going to work on the road versus a stout Nebraska defense. As the Eagles struggle on third downs, the Huskers will keep the chains moving with the constant running of Burkhead and Martinez. Nebraska will be more effective than polished in Week 1, keeping USM at a safe distance throughout.

CFN Prediction: Nebraska 30 … Southern Miss 13
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Nebraska -20; O/U: 53
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 3

Eastern Kentucky (0-0) at Purdue (0-0) Sept. 1, 3:30, BTN

Here's The Deal: Is Purdue ready to be special? With 16 starters returning and good depth, there's a buzz about the Boilermakers with a trip to Notre Dame coming up next and with Michigan and Wisconsin coming up at home over the first half of the season. With this team and this schedule, everything is in place to potentially win the four-team Leaders race – with Penn State and Ohio State ineligible – and it all has to start here against a good-looking Eastern Kentucky team that went 7-5 last year and comes into the season ranked 18th in the FCS. The ground game is expected to be terrific, but the defense has a few issues and has to find something that works on the line and the secondary. EKU almost beat Kansas State last year in the opener before giving way late in the 10-7 loss, and this year the Colonels are more than good enough to pull off the upset on the road.

Why Eastern Kentucky Might Win: Even with a great defensive tackle pair returning in Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston, Purdue isn't going to be a rock against the run. It will be good, and it will get into the backfield, but it's going to be inconsistent against the better ground games. Led by Matt Denham, who finished third in the FCS in rushing cranking out 131 yards per game, the EKU offense has a star to work around. On the short list of preseason Walter Payton Award candidates, Denham should be the star player on the best team in the Ohio Valley Conference. If EKU can control the ball and the clock, it should be able to keep it close.

Why Purdue Might Win: Do the Colonels have a defense? It's going to be good at taking the ball away and it might be able to get behind the line from time to time, but the team is going to win games on offense. Purdue should be able to come up with a decent, balanced gameplan behind an improved line and with a strong veteran in Caleb TerBush. Purdue can move the ball through the air on EKU, but it's questionable whether or not EKU can get the offense going if it's being stuffed on the ground.

What To Watch Out For: Ralph Bolden can't seem to catch much of a break. He's trying to come back from a knee injury that happened late last year – the second torn ACL of his career – but he's not ready yet. 5-11, 203-pound senior Akeem Shavers picked up the slack for an injured Bolden in the bowl game with 149 yards on 22 carries against Western Michigan, and now he should see an even bigger role with Bolden still hurting. The former JUCO transfer is a speedster with 4.5 wheels, and he can also bring a little bit of power.

What Will Happen: Eastern Kentucky will put up more of a fight than Purdue fans might like. The Boilermakers will pull away in the second half, but only after sweating it out in a sloppy and rough first half.

CFN Prediction: Purdue 37 … Eastern Kentucky 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) No Line; O/U: No Line
Must Watch Rating (5 – Boss, 1 - Married To Jonas): 2